Sams Teach Yourself Macromedia Flash MX 2004 by Phillip Kerman, ISBN 0-672-32594-2

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, send e-mail December 2003
Published by: Sams Publishing, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $29.99 (US), $45.99 (CAN), UK £21.99

When I received this book I had a couple of expectations, a) that it would be very comprehensive, and b) that it would provide me with an overview of the art of creating Flash web sites. It does the first very well and by its very nature fails at the second. I had to eliminate my expectations and take another look at this book from the viewpoint of a beginner. I have been working in the design industry for about 20 years and this proves a bit of a handicap when it comes to looking at books and manuals aimed at the beginner. I had to take this book at face value. It is a book aimed clearly at the beginner and also at the non-graphics computer user. But that's a good thing too.

Phillip Kerman does a commendable job of stepping the reader through Flash MX 2004 and covers many of the program's key features using a practical, grass roots type of approach. The projects in this book are very simple and easy to absorb allowing the user to very quickly grasp the fundamentals of Flash. Each workshop takes the user though a particular exercise and then recaps the project in a short quiz focusing on key elements from the exercise. There are also useful tips and cautions placed throughout each exercise to highlight key issues and features. I found some of these tips a little more basic than necessary and feel these should have been in a fundamentals section in the beginning of the book, but then again that may just be a personal bias.

The weakest aspect of this book is in its coverage of Action Scripting, but this too is forgivable as it is hardly an area where beginners are going to want to jump in. It's an area in which a separate book dedicated to Action Scripting will naturally provide more information and room for clarification. I found a lot of the information placed in the Appendices was useful but could have appeared earlier in the book. The inclusion of links in this section was good but could have been a bit more thorough. However, and quite understandably, this is also fraught with the danger of changes because of web sites going down (and out). This could be addressed with a web presence as found with other publications in the same field.

This book deals with fundamentals, and as you step through the very basic tutorials, it's very easy to retain the information and techniques to which you are introduced. Armed with the experience gained in working with this book, you'll be able to confidently expand your knowledge of Flash MX - it's a powerful tool. Once you've finished this book you'll want to pick up some more advanced training materials, all of which will be easier to work with due to this book.

Cons: Lack of real world examples for the user to aspire to. Lack of color. Fails to put all the pieces together for complete and viable project.

Pros: Clear and straightforward approach to each project. This book succeeds in giving the user a basic overview of the many features in Macromedia Flash MX.

What this book does is take users by the hand and leads them through the basics of Flash, providing a good foundation upon which they can build. It won't turn anyone into a Flash guru, but it will start you on the road to competence. This book is clearly not aimed at the professional user and I recommend it for the beginner or the creative with no experience in Flash.

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